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In the shadow of Big Ole (speaking somewhat figuratively) is the Depot Express. From the outside, it seemed promising: an ivy-covered train depot, renovated and refurbished with water views from an outside eating area.

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Inside, we were greeted by an energetic young woman who showed us to an inside table. Again, so far promising: attractive décor with a cool, dimly-lit interior such that one could feel one’s heart rate drop from all the hurly-burly of travel.

The young woman left us in the care of Danae, and Danae moved at a rate which suggested that her heart rate, too, had dropped. Danae did not shimmer to our tableside as one who had ever heard the term “like lighting.” Danae did not share with us the daily specials (which we later heard about as other diners arrived and were seated). Danae appeared to be slightly nonplussed to find herself taking drink and food orders, and recorded them reluctantly, the sound of pen and paper her only acknowledgement of our speaking.

We waited for our drinks. At long last, they appeared, and we ordered our food. Once again, Danae seemed unimpressed as she wandered back toward the kitchen. Other diners had come and been seated, had heard and approved the specials. We watched as other waitresses brought those diners drinks and took their orders. And we waited.

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We waited for 25 minutes. During this time, five other parties had arrived, been seated, and received their orders. One couple, in fact, was ready to pay their bill by the time our food arrived. We, meanwhile, were counting ourselves lucky to have seen our waitress once and gotten a refill.

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All was not happiness and light when the food came, however. It’s a bad sign when the sandwich hunkers in the middle of the plate looking ashamed of itself. The Reuben I had ordered had the texture of a sponge and tasted acrid and greasy: the kind of taste that promises to return, over and over, throughout the afternoon. The grilled cheese that Steven had ordered only featured cheese to about an inch from the edge, where it became plain toasted bread—and it wasn’t a large sandwich to begin with.

The plates had seen better days, and mine had a spill that might have been pickle juice, only it had dried and crusted on the plate, leaving me to question what it was and how long it had been there. The only one of us who enjoyed his lunch was Andrew, who had struck gold with his order of spaghetti (in his words, “You can’t mess up spaghetti”).

In short, there was nothing express about the Depot Express. When we were ready to pay, Danae made three trips past our table, noting the cash atop the bill, before she finally condescended to accept it as payment. As we left, I washed in the ladies’ room and noted that the lotion that had been provided for guest use was in little bottles…little bottles marked with hotel names. Somehow, it seemed to fit my new impression of the place.

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